Students, Volunteers and LCMM staff building a 32’ rowing gig in the LCMM boat shop.
In the LCMM boat shop, lately, we’ve been riveting. An ancient and practical process, it requires at least two people and a lot of team-work to complete each rivet. We tend to work in groups of three, with one person as the communicator since as it’s loud in there!
The two students doing the riveting decide: who will be inside the boat, and who will be on the outside. The person on the inside drills a hole through the rib and the overlapping planks. From the outside, a copper nail is pushed through. The person on the outside holds the nail securely with a tool called a backing iron, making sure the nail stays put. From the inside, using a special tool called a rove set and a hammer, the other student pounds a copped washer- called a rove- onto the protruding nail. The inside person then levers the nail with a pair of tin snips to sink the head, before clipping the extra nail off as close to the rove as they can.
From there, with the person on the outside of the boat still holding the nail in place, the person on the inside taps the little protruding bit of copper gently with a ball-peen hammer, rounding the nub into a dome, and tightening the whole thing down. Think of it as artifically making a second head on the nail.
We use rivets in boatbuilding because few other things can match them for clamping pressure, and, as the students could tell you, we use copper because it is malleable and extremely corrosion-resistant. All in all, there are twenty rivets per rib and with sixty ribs, so we’re looking at 1,200 rivets in the ribs alone. We will also rivet together the gunwales and inwales, so by the time we’re done, the kids will be very well-practiced.
The riveting process is just one example of the care and consideration that is such a hallmark of the wooden boat.